Last Friday, I had my own holy night. No magi or livestock were involved, but Emmanuel was there as surely as He was in Bethlehem’s stable. I was invited to speak at a women’s Christmas dinner at a tiny rural church in Virginia. The night blessed my soul in ways I never expected. It was the greatest Christmas surprise I have received in many years.
I had never visited this little church before. Thankfully, a handful of women from my home church agreed to come along for moral support. As my friends and I drove through darkened back roads, not all of them paved, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. After only one wrong turn, we finally arrived. Rounding one more switchback curve, I saw the one-room church, lifted straight from a Currier and Ives Christmas card.
A buttery glow spilled from the windows into the churchyard. High above the white clapboard building, bells tolled as the clock struck seven. The rich, deep sound rang through the night, welcoming us to come in and find shelter from the cold. Shelter, indeed.
Inside, every corner of the room was filled. One corner held a Christmas tree. It was perfectly shaped yet real – we were in the country, after all. Another corner held a beautiful buffet, laden with ham, rolls, steaming green beans, baked apples and cheese potatoes. And that was before you reached the desserts! It was a feast fit for a King.
But the sweetest miracle was the greeting we received from this group of firm believers. They opened their arms and their hearts, warmly sharing the joy of Christ’s coming in song and in the Word. For a few brief hours, the world stopped. Sorrows and cares were set aside as we came into His presence with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.
I had never met these women before. But I knew every one of them. From the newly widowed bride of many years to the elfin grandmother dressed in red from head to toe to the little girl with big brown eyes and chestnut hair swept up in a festive Christmas bow.
I was home. These women believe what I believe. They have staked their lives on the same truth I have, that the Lover of our souls left behind the glories of heaven to appear in a rural one-room stable, that He suffered unspeakably so we could be with Him forever.
For now, my holy night in the country felt like a little slice of heaven, a sneak preview of the fellowship we will feel when the One we adore returns to take us home again. The joy I felt will stay with me for a very long time.
May you feel His grace today,
The last Word:
The Word was made flesh and dwelled among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14, NIV.